Cubs

5 Questions with...Jim Cornelison

722738.jpg

5 Questions with...Jim Cornelison

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guesthes been called the voice of Chicago sports, whose stirring renditions of our national anthem continue to send United Center Blackhawks crowds into a frenzy each and every time outhis brilliant tenor voice has earned him numerous accolades in the opera field over the years and his popularity among Chicago sports fans just grows and grows(everyone now) Ooh Say Can You Seeeee!...that its 5 Questions withJIM CORNELISON!

BIO: Jim Cornelison is in his fourth season as the Blackhawks full-time national anthem singer, having made regular appearances singing the anthem at the United Center since 1996. In addition to his countless standout anthem performances for the Blackhawks, Cornelison also sang prior to a Bulls playoff game last season and Bears playoff games in 201011. He also sang at the Bears 2011 season opener on Sept. 11, the ten-year anniversary of 911.

An undergrad from Seattle Pacific Universitymasters student from Indiana University, Cornelison, a native of Vienna, Va., sang with numerous opera companies before coming to Chicago in 1995 to take part in the Lyric Operas Apprenticeship Program where he one of six accepted apprentices among more than 800 applicants. He has performed nationally and internationally with some of the biggest names in opera, such as Plcido Domingo and Zubin Mehta. Known as a heroic tenor for the dark color of his voice but ability to sing in a tenor range, he has sung with opera companies in Bordeaux, London, Brussels and San Francisco, among many other places.

A 1992 graduate of Indiana Universitys Masters of Music program, Cornelison has received numerous accolades for his singing, including the William Matheus Sullivan Foundation Award and the George London Foundation Encouragement Grant, as well as first place in the American Opera Society of Chicagos 1997 Vocal Competition.

1) CSNChicago.com: Jim, its a pretty impressive feat to be a have such a solid fan base as someone who is not a pro athlete or a top sports exec in town, but youve managed to pull that off nicely. Congrats. Lets get right to itat what age did you know you had a little something extra in your voice that separated you from the pack and was music something you knew you wanted to pursue at that time?

Cornelison: When I went to college, I started with music playing the piano and singing in choir. At the end of my freshman year, one of the professors sat me down and asked if I was serious about music. I really didn't know if it was what I wanted to do, but knew I liked it. He said I should consider studying voice because I was not a good piano player! I was such a country bumpkin I really didn't know why people studied voice. From there, the ceiling kept going up and I never did run into anyone that discouraged me.

I sang with Seattle Opera Chorus when I was 20 and realized my voice was as powerful as many of the 40-year-olds. Then, in graduate school at Indiana is where I became one of the leading baritones. I didn't switch to tenor until I was 29. When I came to the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1995, I was a tenor and people really paid attention to my voice. I had an options contract with Columbia Artists Management at the time and when I left the Lyric, I signed with them. My first job was in Bordeaux. I travelled a lot during those early years of singing, working in Bordeaux, London, Brussels, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Hawaii, at the Lyric in Chicago, Seattle, and many others.

2) CSNChicago.com: Your stirring renditions of our National Anthem have become famous around the world thanks in part to the digital age we live in. On any given night at the United Centerwhen the organ begins the first few bars of the Star Spangled Bannerin your mind, do you shut out the thousands of screaming fans during the anthem to help you focus or does the love from the Blackhawks crowd play a role in your performance?

Cornelison: I love the noise of the crowd! I have to pull into myself if I get too excited. There are very noticeable differences in the volume level on different nights. On some nights, the enthusiasm really fires me up. I'll sometimes find myself on the edge of overdoing it and then I have to settle down.

3) CSNChicago.com: Speaking of the National Anthem -- as many celebs and even pros have done countless times before -- it has to be asked, have you ever screwed up the words while you were singing it?

Cornelison: No! Ha! I wish people would quit asking me that....it makes me nervous!

4) CSNChicago.com: Its probably safe to say that many fans in the Chicago sports community are unaware of your standout opera backgroundand its also pretty safe to say many of them have never even been to the opera (present interviewer included). In your opinion, do you think the opera community works hard enough to bring in new and younger fans to see and hear the performances of some of the greatest voices in the world?

Cornelison: No I don't. Some companies do better than others, but the new operas being written seem to be written to impress academics. I have a fantasy of seeing new opera that is irreverent comedy, something like "Animal House: the Opera!!! Comic opera has almost disappeared in new works. If you created interest with younger people with something like that, then it is a small jump to classic comic opera or the most popular works like La Boheme, or I Pagliacci. I am amazed at the number of native Chicagoans I meet who have never been to the opera. Conversely, I'm amazed at the number of people I've met at hockey games who also are opera fans.

5) CSNChicago.com: If you walked into a karaoke bar and decided to give it a go, name some non-opera song or songs would we most likely hear you belt out.

Cornelison: Believe it or not, I have only done karaoke one time and it was an abysmal failure according to all reports from my supposed friends who were present. I sang "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" by Billy Joel, not my usual cup of tea. If I do it again, I will do one of my party tunes which could be My Way, Besame Mucho, O Sole Mio, or I might try my hand at Don't Fall in Love with Me by John Legend.

Karaoke is a great way to pretend you are a singer other than what you are! Weddings are fun that way, too. I don't do them often, but I've performed songs that were requested by the bride and groom, as long as I thought I could pull it off: Sinatra, show tunes, occasionally pop and even some country!

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything youd like to promote Jim? Tell usCSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it!

Cornelison: I like to put a plug in for the USO that does so much work to support our troops. They and the Blackhawks provide a great opportunity for our military people to come out on the ice with me when I sing and it has elevated the meaning behind the Anthem tradition at the games. It is great fun to see them in the third period on the big screen when all the fans are cheering for them. Great stuff! I'm friends with Tom Tuohy at Dreams For Kids as well. They do incredible work with kids that are disabled, come from poverty or maybe, along with the Illinois Patriot Education Fund, help kids who have lost a parent in the wars. The Blackhawks support them, too. I try to help either group out whenever they ask me.

Cornelison LINKS

Chicago Blackhawks official website

Jim Cornelison on Facebook

Jim Cornelison on Twitter

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.